Jurors told to ‘put politics aside’ as they near verdict in Edward Leung Mong Kok riot trial
Hong Kong Indigenous spokesman and four others have pleaded not guilty to rioting and inciting others to riot in trial that has lasted almost three months
The judge presiding over the riot trial of Hong Kong pro-independence activist Edward Leung Tin-kei urged jurors to put politics aside on Monday, as she began to direct them on reaching a verdict.
The Hong Kong Indigenous group spokesman is now one step closer to learning his fate following a trial which began in February, lasting almost three months.
“You are not here to deal with social and political disputes,” Madam Justice Anthea Pang Po-kam told a panel of nine jurors at the High Court.
Leung, 26, and four other men have pleaded not guilty to a host of charges, including rioting and inciting others to take part in a riot, in the busy district of Mong Kok on the night of February 8, 2016. The chaos carried on into the early hours of next morning.
Hong Kong localist Edward Leung tells Mong Kok riot trial he acted out of duty to protect hawkers and crowds
Leung has been remanded into custody since February this year, when he pleaded guilty to a separate count of assaulting police during the same event. His other co-defendants are Lam Lun-hing, Lam Ngo-hin, Lee Nok-man and Lo Kin-man.
Wrapping up the case on Monday, Pang told the jury this was a case involving a group of social activists and frustrations against the authorities. But she urged jurors not to be affected by any “sympathy” or “bias”.
Prosecutors have alleged that an angry crowd began to swell at Portland Street on February 8, after some expressed dissatisfaction over how officers from the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department treated the hawkers at the scene that night.
The chaos later descended into a stand-off with police, with prosecutors alleging that Leung and a fellow member from the localist group Hong Kong Indigenous, Ray Wong Toi-yeung, then incited the crowd to riot by issuing commands.
Among the crowd, the prosecutors said, were other members from the group dressed in blue T-shirts.
Video footage played in court showed a confrontation of protesters hurling verbal abuse at police officers and assaulting them, with bricks being launched as missiles when the unrest later spread to Argyle, Shantung, and Fa Yuen streets.
Pang told the jury on Monday while some might be put off by the violence and insults, and others might sympathise with the hawkers, it was important they maintain a “calm and impartial” approach when considering the criminal allegations against each of the defendants.
“You have to remember your oath,” she reminded them.
The judge also said the event was widely reported by media at the time. “You need to leave all of the media reports behind,” she said.
She invited the jury to first decide whether what happened that night amounted to a riot and, if so, whether the defendants had taken part in it.
Pang continues to direct the jury on Monday afternoon.